Friday 6 November 2015

A pair of Herring Gulls on the north side of the Serpentine were picking up leaves. But this wasn't the usual idle game. The male waved several leaves at the female.

They raised their heads and gave a long call together. Then the female picked up a leaf, walked a short way ashore, put it down carefully and sat on it.

This is clearly a ritual representing nesting. But it seemed odd that it was happening in November. When I got round to the other side of the lake there was a different pair of Herring Gulls, and they were doing exactly the same thing. Perhaps they were selecting mates well in advance of the nesting season next spring.

The Black Swan was beside the terrace of the Dell restaurant, uttering his rather musical two-note call to the young Mute Swan. (I think it is almost certain that the Black Swan is male and the other female.) The other swan doesn't know she's supposed to be mute, and was managing to utter some little squeaks in imitation of his, quite unlike the feeble piping noise that cygnets make.

He is teaching her some bad habits. She went off and threatened some adults, which were not particularly alarmed by this cheeky teenager but did move away.

The Great Crested Grebes that were on the Serpentine have left, and the coast is clear for the family from the fallen poplar on the Long Water to go where they like. The adults of the other family on the Long Water seem likely to leave too, making little practice flying runs. After one of these they displayed to each other, and one of them adopted the 'cat posture', holding up its wings.

I think this is also a symbolic act, representing a grebe with its wings raised to hold a load of babies on its back. The grebes seem to be leaving early. Do they sense a cold winter on its way?

The elusive Little Grebe appeared near the gravel bank. Sorry about the poor quality of this picture, which was taken from the other side of the lake in terrible light.

The yew tree between Peter Pan and the Italian Garden was busy again. As I approached, two Song Thrushes flew out from the other side. There were three Ring-Necked Parakeets in the top of the tree, and Blackbirds visited it repeatedly. Here is one swallowing a berry.

There was also a Goldcrest hopping around deep inside the tree.

The Magpie family near the Henry Moore sculpture were squabbling over a bit of food.

After the morning rain stopped, the male Little Owl came out on his usual branch.


  1. W.G. Arnott, in his classic “Swan Songs” (, writes, “The whooper swan … calls both on land and in flight with a long bugle-like note, the second syllable higher pitched than the first, repeated several times in succession.” Is what you hear, Ralph, from Mr Black a kissing cousin of that? Arnott goes on to say, “The musicality of this note is a matter of opinion; one authority has compared it to ‘silver bells’, another to the sound of “a clarionet when blown by a novice in music’, in a way bracketing, one might say, your own judgment of ‘rather musical’.

    And thank you for your most wonderful blog!

    -Charles Young

    1. Thanks for the information. The Black Swan's two-note call has a descending pitch, 'ee-oo', with the two notes about a third apart. It isn't very loud.

  2. Hi Ralph
    Out of curiosity, although I know the Reed Warblers would have left a while ago, but when did you last stop seeing them?